Monday, March 19, 2018

night 3 in the tent (Bradford)

Good eats.

The seeing looked poor to the south as I stepped out the airlock...

Opened the observing section of the tent.

Checked the time on the Sony recorder. 17 hours left. That showed the deletion was successfully.

9:41 PM, Sunday. Headed to the mount. Woke it from hibernation. Ended up at Capella. The pointing was quite good.

Felt windier tonight. Closed the tent door. The east side of the tent was wobbly as the pegs had pulled out. Reset the lightweight pegs.

Set up the computer. SkyTools to red mode. Real time. Flipped to my notes. Turned off the natural sky, which I had used to help us spot the sunset planets. Turned on the horizon and meridian. Gracefully closed ST3P to save all the configuration. Connected to the mount without changing settings. Opened the Interactive Atlas and saw the X. Synced.

Ready to go.

Sorted by transit time [ed: blurgh.] Considered Auriga and Orion targets. Ah. 42 Orionis, super wide field, finally. I would only use the finderscope to officially complete this. Slewed.

9:53. Mount zipped! Weird that it happened at the beginning of the session. Would I continue to see the problem through the night?

Viewed through the Orion 9x50 finderscope. Stars 42 and 45 in Orion appeared as two equal blue-white stars with a medium separation. Clearly near the great nebula and iota. Between M42 and the NGC 1981 open cluster. I knew the Running Man was there. As I suspected, a very obvious binocular double star.

Decided, while I was in the 'hood, to dive deep in the telescopic view of the Running Man. Couldn't see anything... Faint.

Checked the OneWorld weather station. -1.0°C, 29% humidity, 884 air pressure, altitude 286m. I hadn't seen the humidity change before but it was working. The air pressure sensor is clearly wobbly. Suddenly the unit rebooted! Lost the settings. Date and time were reset. Frick. Temp appeared as -0.7.  Warmth from my hand? Considered an external battery pack for this stoopid thing...

In the eyepiece, the stars 42, 45, V359, and HR 37059 reminded me of Corvus.

NGC 1981 was to my right. Just to the north.

Panned to ι aka Nair al Saif.

The diffuse nebulae of NGC 1973, 1975, and 1977 were barely detectable.

Looked for targets higher in Orion. Used the "checked items" mode in the Interactive Atlas in SkyTools.

Heard Rhonda come down the back steps. I asked her what she thought of the skies. "A little blurry in the east. Fuzzy. A little blurry in the west." Way windier. She thought it damp. She surmised there was more moisture in the air due to the warm day-time temps. She thought it rather cold in the tent. Said it was too bad that we couldn't direct the dryer vent into the tent.

Showed her Messier 42 again. "Why?" she asked. Well, you can't go wrong.

I put the Pentax eyepiece in so we could zoom in. But it was soft. We were gettin' in the trees.

10:11. I wanted to show her σ (sigma) Orionis. The little cluster and the triple star. I liked the view a lot. "Oh, nice," rho remarked. Lovely.

I wondered if we might see some Messier galaxies tonight. Looked for some Leo targets, ideally two or more in the view. Decided on M65, M66, and NGC 3628. Big meridian flip.

Asked Rhonda to help me with alignment on a star to improve the pointing. I synced the software. Slewed to the space between the three galaxies. She could just see them. I was disappointed. I apologised. Maybe they'd get better as they rose higher.

Considered NGC 3077. No... While high in the sky, it was small.

Noticed I was in photographic mode.

Switched to a showpieces list. Applied aggressive filters. We received a short list of double stars only. No galaxies for my sugar.

Slewed to 54 Leonis. Rhonda said, "Tiny. Nice." A tight, colourful double.

Commanded the mount to the next objected. Another meridian flip—oops. Mekbuda. She called. "That's kinda nice. Pretty."

I asked if she recalled seeing Castor. "The Beaver?" Ha. No, the multi-star system. I thought it fantastic. "Oh, wow. Awesome!" She could see the faint nearby stars. She asked if she could see the main star naked. I showed her the trick for identified Castor versus Pollux, using Capella (over the house) and Procyon. She memorised the star names.

We noticed some clouds.

Looked for high priority items in Gemini. Ah, λ (lambda). Asked if she wanted to try it. It was a double star I had added to my candidate list, that I had never looked at before, so I had no idea what we'd get. Could be super-tight. Rhonda asked if it was a double. Yes... I had a look. Nothing obvious—holy cow! Quite close, easily split, but astonishingly dim. Thousands of times dimmer! [ed: Er, no, just over 7 mags different therefore 759x unequal in brightness.] Hawkeye saw it now, at the 1 o'clock position (north-east). 3.5 vs 10.7. She wanted to know if they were a system. I couldn't tell. Possibly an optical. 94 light-years. That's part of what double star research is about...

There was a neat snaking pattern of stars to the left or west and wriggling down or south.

I told rho that I often chose targets that had something else interesting nearby, like a galaxy or a cluster. I checked the field and noted another double nearby. I panned west a little. We noted a faint little triangle well away from λ. And then we spotted the faint pair of HD 55998, equal. 450 light-years away!

Stoopid clouds everywhere.

10:53. Went to HD 41996. Sounded familiar. From the Coldfield list. Hmmm. In an open cluster. Oh! It was in M35. An identified double within it. It was near middle. Rhonda thought the A star bright yellow but nothing special about the companion. She asked "There's so many close together, how do you define a double?" Exactly. She felt like there were many doubles within. SkyTools showed there were about 6 double stars within the boundary of the cluster. I didn't know if there was formal criteria.

I thought about eye candy. Colourful, i.e. "red" stars, in the area. Found one in Auriga. Not bad. High enough, still.

UU Aurigae. Whoa. Pretty good, actually. Very orange. Like an ember. She thought it nice but then reported it fading and blinking with the clouds.

Whoa! Spotted a tight, faint double at the 4 o'clock position! ST3P showed a bunch of known doubles in the area.

Tried added an item to the SkyTools list but it didn't work. Added the companion.

Rhonda requested one more before heading in. Busy week ahead. I wanted to carry on.

The skies were improving. Really clear near Capella.

Chose another red star. Very short slew. Rhonda thought it a nice orange colour. TU Geminorum. She saw doubles all around the edge of the field.

A car, almost as loud as mine, drove around the neighbourhood.

The extremely loud dog was let out into the north neighbour's backyard. Wow.

Realised what was going on with the list. Transit time is a tell that photography mode is active; switched to visual mode.

Returned to Struve 1327 aka HD 79552. An on-going exercise. Blue, orange. White and orange. Red? White, orange red, maybe. Yellow and red? Yellow and orange? Yellow, orange, red?

11:17. Read my old notes: "I thought them yellow and orange and red." RASC says yellow and blue. I decided to put this to bed. I was done looking at this system. I will mark it logged.

Checked the power level on the Sony recorder. It was fine. A GO train rolled through the area.

Moved to next. HD 75646 or STT A 96 in Cancer. Very close. Triple. Yellow, blue, super dim. Orange. Green? Triangle, right angle. Awesome! Faint. Nearly empty field. Great one. Very good for my programme. Oops, I had already looked at... Still, a really good target. Removed the high priority setting.

Considered Talitha, while monitoring the meridian.

Logitech computer mouse was acting up again. The list kept regenerating. Annoying. Then the slewing kept aborting. I broke and resumed the connection to fix it.

Slewed. Took a look. Didn't see anything. Probably extremely tight so I grabbed a more powerful eyepiece. The cold 9mm ocular fogged a bit, damn it. Airy disk. Pretty good diffraction rings. But could not see a companion. Noted a somewhat bright star at the 8 o'clock position, HD 76552. Talitha or ι UMa A and B should have been vertical.

Swapped the 36mm eyepiece back.

Wondered why Talitha was in lists like View Again and the Cambridge Double Star Atlas showpieces...

Slewed to Algieba then Dubhe, syncing. Headed to Alula Australis. Noted a hook of stars nearby. I could split the stars. For me, up and down. That was north and south. The software chart showed A as mag 4.4 and B at 3.8, the bright one above and the dim one below. That was opposite what I was seeing. The Object Information said A is 4.4 and B 4.9... I spotted a dim star (9.8) to the north, Tycho 02520-0324 1, which was roughly inline with AB. I drew an angle in the app at 162°. As of Feb 2018, ST3P showed the PA of AB at 160. Ha. Close. Impressive. The C star is mag 15, outside the C8 capability. OK: A and B observed! At a sep. of 2.03".

Now I was on the same side has 35 Sex now. Considered 15-17 CVn. Thought about HD 85458 but it was just the other side of the meridian. Could not trick the mount... Slewed to into Boötes.

11:58. Nearly Monday...

STF 1785 or HD 120476, a fast-mover. Nearly equal stars. Neat. Yep. Saw a big line of stars... The B was to the south. Estimated PA at 189, toward Tycho 02002-0405 1 (mag 10.3). Checked for a bright star (HD 120802) at the 1 or 2 o'clock position. Faint L, right-angle triangle, to the south. Also inline with Tycho 02002-0207 1 (mag 10.2). Separation 2.81".

Again I enjoyed the "pre-notes," helpful for fast moving binaries.

24 Com? Virgo items?

The sky was clearing. Felt colder. -0.1°, 20%, 885 mbar.

HD 108424 or FOX 175. Wide pair in Virgo. Yellow, blue. Dull. On my candidate list. B was to my left or 9 o'clock position (north-west). Mags 8 and 10, roughly.

Tight pair at the 11 o'clock position. Yellow and orange? This is HD 108423 or ADS 8556.

Super-faint pair between (no designation). No colour. Wider than the previous pair but not as much as FOX 175. Includes GSC 00288-0077 at mag 12.4; the other star is mag 13.3!

Neat grouping! All relatively faint. Great choice.

The horns of the train...

Next: Zavijah, also in Virgo. aka Otto Struve 576. On my candidate list. A triple with very wide companions. I saw all. Faint! Big bent V shape. B off to my left (west); C to the right. C slightly further out. The primary was extremely bright. There was a medium bright star at my 11 o'clock, HD 102747. I enjoyed it. Had another look. B (mag 10) was dimmer than C (8). Good at low and high power.

Went to Denebola aka β604. A bright blue-white star, the primary. Part of a string of stars, up and down, north and south. One of which was a companion. The first one south was the D star (magnitude 8.5). No problem. SkyTools showed C (mag 13.2) above or north. I went for another look... I couldn't get it! I turned on the Moon light feature in the chart and the C star was removed. Uh huh. ST3P said the B star was mag 15! It's probably a good option... Low and high. And very high. I'll see what team thinks.

The bright pair to the south-south-west, SAO 99800 (or HR 4531), I could not split (tonight).

Noted a very faint pair (not designated) to the east (right) with PPM 128588, mags 10.9 and 12.7.

The wind gusted. I was getting cold.

Noticed photographic mode was on again... The list kept updating.

Chose a low target.

12:28 AM, Monday. Could not split HR 4758 or Burnham 28. Fast mover, 2.2", 6.4 and 9.6. Too low, I thought. It was already logged but I marked to re-observe.

Security light came on...

Noticed M98 was near max. altitude. No joy. The current sky's transparency was simply not permitting galaxies to show through.

Aimed to HR 4698 in Coma. Σ1633. Candidate item. "Hmm. Look at that." Equal. Nearly perfectly equal. Yellow and yellow. Not exactly oriented east to west. They were slightly canted toward 2 and 8 o'clock. Left star which I thought was slightly fainter was mag 7.1 and right was 6.3. They were tight. They software made them look really close. Noted a bright star below (south): HR 4693. A good one!

A car came in.

The checkmark column was really wide. Whiskey tango foxtrot.

Almost 1 o'clock in the morning...

Selected HR 5346 or Struve 1825 from the Coldfield list. A great double. Tight, 3 or 4 seconds, I guessed (ST3P said 4.4"). Different magnitudes, 2 or 3, I guessed (6.3 vs 8.7). Almost a completely empty field.

Virgo? Coma Berenices? Hercules?

I figured out that if you change a column width in the display the list regenerates! Weird. Avoid.

Slewed. HD 130466 in Boo. STF 1910. From the Coldfield list. Two equal stars (m 6.7 and 7.7). Possibly yellow and blue... Very tight (4.0").

Jumped to HR 5659 in Ser Cap. STF 1919. Nice. Pretty wide. Yellow. Yellow? Different magnitudes. ST3P data: sep 23.1", mag 6.7 and 7.7, again.

Decided to wrap. The battery charger was really loud when I started it up—attributed it to the cold.

1:03. Looked at the OW unit again: -1.7°, 20%, 885.

1:09. Inside.

1:13. Ice cream?!

Interesting evening. After the early hiccup, the CGEM mount worked fine. Overall, the equipment worked well. Saw a bunch more doubles. No galaxies again. Why? Are the Bradford skies tanking with new (bad) lighting and urban dev? Essentially used one eyepiece for the eve which was fine, worked well, particularly for my project candidate targets. Very happy getting a third good night. And the planet show at sunset was an awesome bonus.

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